Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cascata delle Marmore, from the Belvedere Inferiore


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 55 a

Catalogue entry

At the Umbrian town of Terni Turner made a short detour from the direct road to Rome in order to visit the famous waterfall, approximately three miles to the east. An entirely man-made phenomenon, the Falls of Terni were created by the ancient Romans who diverted the River Velino to descend into the Nera valley beneath in three successive stages. The whiteness of the waters led to the popular appellation of the ‘Cascata’ or ‘Caduta delle Marmore’ (Falls of Marble). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the site represented one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy outside of Rome and the Papal Government exercised a monopoly on guides and vehicle hire so that unless travellers were prepared to walk the distance from Terni, they were obliged to pay to access the site.1 In 1781, Pope Pius VI ordered the construction of two viewing huts to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors. One of these shelters, the Belvedere Inferiore, allowed a vista of the entire spectacle from the bottom of the falls, whilst the other, the Belvedere Superiore, was situated on a projecting spur of rock, almost level with the brink of the summit. Both could be reached by the road from Terni which diverged at the small village of Papigno, see folios 49 verso–50 (D14749–50).
Like most tourists, Turner chose to visit both viewpoints. Sketches from the Belvedere Superiore can be found on folios 46, 46 verso, 48, 48 verso, 50 verso, 51–51 verso, 52 and 53 (D14742, D14743, D14746, D14747, D14751, D14752–3, D14754 and D14756). This sketch meanwhile, continued on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 56 (D14761), depicts the view from below at the Belvedere Inferiore, with the three distinct stages of the falling cascades. The hut at the Belvedere Superiore, which still exists today, can be seen near the top right-hand corner of the page. Despite the swift schematic nature of the drawing, Turner has attempted to convey something of the power and force of the Falls within his sketch. He has used bold hatched lines and areas of shading to express the sheer weight of the water as it plunges from the top, and the mass of spray thrown up from the rocks. Further views from the Belvedere Inferiore can be found on folios 56 verso (D14762) and 57 (D14763).

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

Benjamin Colbert, Shelley’s Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision, London 2005, pp.161–2. Today the site is still a popular visitor attraction. Most of the time however, the majority of the water is diverted for use in a hydroelectric power plant and the falls are only ‘turned on’ intermittently for the benefit of tourists, see, accessed November 2008.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.701; W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.I, London 1908, no.145.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.2.53, p.170 reproduced.
Quoted in Benjamin Colbert, Shelley’s Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision, London 2005, pp.162–3.
Cubberley and Herrmann 1992, p.171.
Richard Colt Hoare, Recollections Abroad, Bath 1818, vol.II, p.252, quoted in Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissanas et al, Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros 1748–1810, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood 1985, p.[88].
Richard Colt Hoare, The History of Modern Wiltshire, Bath 1822, vol.1, p.83, quoted in Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissanas et al 1985, p.[88].

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